Looking to keep your feet warm this winter? We've picked through over 80 different boots in our selection, choosing 11 of the top contenders this winter. We've evaluated models that perform from the city to the mountains to the Arctic. In our testing, we sloshed through the wettest snow, skated around ice rinks and even traipsed around in cold mountain rivers. Throughout our testing period, we evaluated warmth and weather protection, comfort and coziness, traction, style, and how easy it is to take the boot on and off. All important metrics that helped us hand-out awards and give shout-outs to the niche performers. We hope our unbiased review will help you stay warm through the darkest and coldest parts of winter.
The Best Women's Winter Boots of 2018
Analysis and Award Winners
Winter is in full swing, and a women's winter boot is key to warm and happy feet! In this fully updated review, we take a look at around-town boots and winter hikers, awarding a brand spanking new Editors' Choice award to the Keen Durand Polar. The North Face Shellista remains our second Editors' Choice and we've offered up two Top Picks from Sorel. Also, we introduce stylish contenders like the UGG Cecile, a new Top Pick for Style.
The Best Winter Hiking Boot for Women
Keen Durand Polar - Women's
In search of a great winter hiker that tackles winter trails? The Keen Durand Polar is a wonderful option. It's our favorite for its high-quality weather performance and super cozy faux-fur collar. Outfitted with snowshoe and gaiter compatibility, this 8.5-inch winter hiking boot features the burliest traction and best warmth rating of any winter hiking boot. Take it with you on your next winter adventure in the backcountry.
Read review: Keen Durand Polar - Women's
The Best Everyday Winter Boot for Women
The North Face Shellista II Mid
The North Face Shellista II Mid is perfect for conquering winter sidewalks and light trails. This stylish winter boot is versatile and wins our Editors' Choice award for a second year in a row! Boasting great protection and traction, it will keep you on your feet when the roads get slick. The waterproof NuBuck leather shaft and rubberized outsole are waterproof, providing excellent protection. The outsole sticks to slippery surfaces with temperature-sensitive lugs but reaches its limit on icy sidewalks (like all our contenders). The interior is slippery and cozy, provided exceptional all-day comfort. For a reasonable price of $140, this winter boot is one of our favorites. Wear it around town or on a light trail hike. If you're looking for a versatile winter boot this winter, the North Face Shellista II Mid rocks it!
Read review: North Face Shellista II Mid
Best Bang for the Buck
When it comes to combining comfort and affordability, the Kamik Momentum steals the show. We were surprised that such an inexpensive boot would keep our feet so happy! What do we love? First, the super cozy liner that provides warmth and ample comfort all day. Second, there's great warmth. Third, burly trail-biting traction. Fourth, it's super easy pull on and take off thanks to its laceless system. What didn't we like? It's not the most waterproof and due to its plush lining, it is slow to dry. We also didn't like its adolescent style, and we never wore it out with friends. That said, it's great for winter chores. If you don't mind the lack of style and are just looking for a warm, multi-purpose snow boot, the Kamik Momentum is an unbelievable deal for just $90!
Read review: Kamik Momentum
Top Pick for Severe Weather
Sorel Joan of Arctic
Height: 13.5 inches| Upper Material: Waterproof suede leather with faux-fur collar
Seeking a boot that will keep your feet happy when the weather turns? The super cute Sorel Joan of Arctic is an ultra-durable and weatherproof winter boot that kept us warm in double negative digit temperatures! This boot is perfect for any women living in very cold climates and needs a boot to wear around town or perform winter chores during frigid weather. While we love its weather protection and shaft that keeps us protected in 13-inch snow banks, we didn't love how heavy and clunky this boot feels. The 6-mm liner is cozy and removable while the traction pattern is great for travel over snow. That said, the outsole is lug-less, not performing so well on steep wintery slopes. It's perfect for wear around town, but it's not our first choice for hiking all day long.Overall, we love the Joan of Arctic for its great performance in bad weather.
Read review: Sorel Joan of Arctic
Top Pick for Winter Chores
Sorel Caribou - Women's
With a burly outsole and protective waterproof upper, the Sorel Caribou is one of the most protective boots tested in this review. This Top Pick for Winter Chores is perfect for shoveling snow, walking the dog, or chopping firewood in cold, nasty weather. Dubbed a "workhorse" Pac boot, it's not super stylish or particularly comfortable for all-day wear because it is heavy and bulky. But, the removable 9-mm felt liner, and thick sole makes it warm for temperatures that drop deep into the double negatives. As a result, it's not our favorite for winter hiking of wear for all-day comfort, but it's perfect for wearing around town or while tackling your chores in the coldest of weather.
Top Pick for Style
Height: 7-inches| Upper Material: Waterproof Leather
If you're looking for a cute and stylish winter boot, the UGG Cecile is our Top Pick. Equipped with a full-grain leather construct, this duck boot is completely sealed to keep the moisture out and the warmth in. We particularly enjoy it while working inside and commuting to work, as the interior wool liner provides warmth in the cold but is also breathable (and comfortable) enough to wear throughout the day. Slap on a pair of skinny jeans and a cute winter sweater, and you'll have a 'winter-chic' look that will make heads turn. Of all the boots tested, this is our Top Pick for Style, thanks to its ability to be worn with different outfits. The Cecile model fits well under jeans or pants and is stylish when covered or on their own. While we don't love the expensive price tag ($170), we appreciate the stellar construction and performance in the snow that will last for years.
Read review:UGG Cecile
Analysis and Test Results
Whether you love winter or you're already counting down the days to the first day of spring, proper footwear can help you enjoy all the season has to offer. Among our testers at OutdoorGearLab, winter means skiing, ice climbing, snowshoeing, and a host of other cold weather activities…but if there's one thing we've learned, it's that purchasing the proper gear that makes all the difference.
While proper footwear is critical for technical activities, it's also just as important for everyday life throughout the winter. We hiked on cold winter days that reached temperatures below zero and walked to work each day on snowy, icy roads. We tested them in winter and rain storms, and we wore them out to dinner on icy evenings. We even walked around in rivers and reservoirs to determine their performance in nasty conditions. Some contenders gave us a whole new appreciation for winter; others left our toes a little numb.
In this review, we rated each boot based on six key metrics; Warmth, weather protection, comfort & fit, ease of use, traction, and style. When perusing this review, keep in mind what you're looking for in a great winter boot. Then use our award winners and notable mentions to help you find what's best for you.
- 10: Beyond excellent - not held by any other contenders.
- 9: Excellent for its category
- 7-8: Great and beyond expectation.
- 5-6: Average performance
- 3-4: Below average performance
- 1-2: Terrible performance
It's not surprising that warmth is one of the most important criteria in our winter boot evaluation. Ideally, feet should be protected enough to ensure warmth when either standing around or actively moving. Depending on the climate you live in, warmth may be more or less a crucial metric to consider. For example; if temperatures are mild throughout the year, the warmest boot may not be necessary. However, if you are in an area of the world where temperatures might reach as low as -30 degrees, a warm boot is key. Also, it's important to consider whether or not you'll be standing around or moving throughout the day.
In our testing period, we evaluated a few key factors of each boot. We took each model out in the early morning where temperatures dipped below zero degrees Fahrenheit. We wore different boots on each foot to determine which comparatively lost warmth faster. Then finally, we wore each boot in water, stomping around for a few minutes to note which insulated better from the frigid fluid. After our testing, we learned that a few key factors contribute to the overall warmth of a boot.
The warmest boots featured a thicker outsole, taller shafts, more quality insulation, and some form of breathability to prevent feet from sweating. Also, our warmer boots featured insulation into the footbed of the boot, keeping tootsies super toasty. A contender like the Sorel Caribous had the thickest sole tested and proved to be one of the warmest for just standing around in the cold. As a result, it's an excellent option for those working a ski lift or working outside all day long. In comparison, the Sorel Joan of Arctic and Kamik Momentum both had a thicker sole underfoot, but it didn't insulate as well as the Sorel Caribou. That said, both are still great options for standing around in the cold.
Boots with a super tall shaft like the Sorel Joan of Arctic (sporting a 13.5-inch height!) insulated throughout the length of leg, generating more heat. Other boots with a taller length included the North Face Shellista Mid (12 inches), the Sorel Tofino (12 inches), and the Kamik Momentum (12.5 inches). These also provided more warmth then shorter contenders like the Keen Elsa (only 8-inches). Also, taller boots are much better for tackling tall snow banks.
Got insulation? Boots with more insulation were typically warmer. That said, insulation isn't everything. Some boots with the same amounts of insulation were warmer than others — mostly due to the breathability of the upper material. The Keen Durand Polar features 400-grams of KEEN insulation making it our warmest winter hiking boot tested. Its manufacture rating is to -40 degrees, and it kept our feet happy in temperatures that plunged well into the double negatives. The synthetic and leather overlays are relatively breathable, making it a warm boot when standing and while on the move.
Other boots like the North Face Shellista and Columbia Heavenly Omni-Heat feature just 200-grams of insulation and weren't nearly as warm as the Keen Durand or the Sorel Caribou. These boots kept our feet warm into the zero and single negative digits but didn't perform as well as models with a thicker sole or less breathable overlays. Some boots in this review only like the Keen Elsa have only 100-grams of insulation and are best suited for temperatures that hover just around freezing.
Depending on where you live and how you're planning to use your boots, you may have very different warmth requirements. For example, women enduring the long winters of Minnesota should consider super warm models like the Sorel Joan of Arctic or the Sorel Caribou. While women who live in regions with milder winters can get away with pieces like the Columbia Heavenly Omni-Heat or Keen Elsa. Additionally, if you plan only to use your boots to dash from the parking lot into your office building, then you may be willing to sacrifice warmth for style on a product like the Sorel Tofino II or the UGG Cecile.
Winter weather can bring a dreaded wintery mix of snow, slush, and ice. With the proper footwear, your feet (and pants) can stay protected when nasty weather hits. As another important metric, we compared each boot with another evaluating the ability of the upper material to waterproof and stay dry in winter conditions. To do this, we stood in a reservoir and compared the relative waterproofness of the material. In these tests, we marched for roughly 5 minutes to see when (and if) water came into the boot, and where points of weakness were located. During these tests, we learned that a boot that is weatherproof will typically be tall and waterproof. We also hiked through tall snowbanks to see which boots provided the best protection in snow. In these tests, we learned that a boot with a faux fur collar typically does better than those without.
Every product has a distinct "flood level", whether that's a poorly sealed seam or the top of the tongue, that lets water pour into the boot. Many models also had a "slow leak" level; when we left our feet in the water for several minutes, we noticed spots that let in water over time. Others started to flood immediately. We also noted relative "flood" levels in our tests and provide you with significant data on which boots are the most weatherproof. A more detailed overview of the performance of each boot is noted in the individual reviews.
Looking for the best in weather protection? Both the Sorel Caribou and Sorel Joan of Arctic performed at the top of its metric. While the Sorel Caribou is a little beefier and offers a thicker level of insulation, the Sorel Joan of Arctic, our Top Pick for Severe Weather, features the tallest shaft height tested. Both boots did great in our water tests, offering about the same puddle depth at roughly 10.5-inches. As a result, the Sorel Caribou earns a perfect ten score in this metric.
It scores higher than the Sorel Joan of Arctic because it's warmer and the waterproof overlays provide a puddle depth up to the collar of the boot. In comparison, the Joan of Arctic delivers water protection up to just 10 inches of the 13.5-inch boot height. That said, the Joan of Arctic has a much more voluptuous faux-fur collar the Sorel Caribou's sherpa pile collar that does not keep out as much snow. Both are excellent choices for the nastiest of the weather. The most significant difference is that the Sorel Joan of Arctic is lighter, taller, and just cuter than the Sorel Caribou. As a result, it earns our Top Pick for Severe Weather while the Sorel Caribou earns our Top Pick for Winter Chores.
Another great boot that is cuter than both Sorel options discussed above is the Sorel Tofino II. It left our feet bone dry after submerging in puddle depths of 8.5 inches and protects against snow drifts of 10.25 inches high. Even though faux fur is great for additional protection against snow, it's not for everybody. The North Face Shellista Mid II (Our Editors' Choice winner) protects in puddles up to 8 inches, and snow drifts up to 11 inches, and doesn't have the faux fur collar, but instead features a cute knit-back and leather shaft. Both are great options for severe weather.
If you seek a highly protective winter boot, the Keen Durand Polar or the North Face Chilkat III provide bomber weather protection. Both feature leather waterproof overlays with the North Face sporting suede while the Keen Durand sports synthetics. Of the two boots, the Keen dries out faster (due to the synthetics) while the North Face provides more water protection in deep puddles. Both are great options for hiking in both wet and snowy weather this winter.
Comfort & Fit
While winter can be cold and uncomfortable on some days, a comfy winter boot that fits well can make it a little more luxurious. In this metric, we looked at the comfort and fit features of each boot. For fit, we considered the volume in the foot of the shoe and looked at the precision of fit. Also, we considered whether a buyer like yourself would need to size up or down for each boot. We also went online to see if our testing notes were true to what other experienced wearers felt in their experiences. To evaluate comfort, we examined the liners and put our feet into each boot without socks. We looked at the relative support of the footbeds, the weight of the boot, and how cozy the interior materials felt to wear all day. We also noted which boots were best for all day wear and which felt best to wear for short periods of time.
If you're in search of a boot that is lightweight and outfitted with a ton of cozy features, the Columbia Heavenly Omni-Heat is a great boot to consider. This soft-boot weighs less than a pound while the inner liner is plush. The faux-fur collar does a great job keeping out the wet stuff while the overlay is nice and weather-proof. While this boot doesn't provide as much stability as the North Face Shellista Mid, it is still a great boot with great comfort features. The North Face Shellista Mid, our Editors' Choice award winner features a tall construct and a soft to the touch NuBuck leather outer. The inner liner is cozy and slippery, making it comfortable for all-day wear. Also, the footbed platform is plush, much like a memory foam mattress. We loved this additional support, unlike the less supportive footbeds observed in the Keen Elsa. This boot is a little heavier than the Columbia Heavenly Omni-Heat, but not heavy like the faux-fur collared Sorel Joan of Arctic.
The UGG Cecile scored a nine out of ten in this metric because of its simple, lightweight design and all-day comfort. The wool lining isn't plush, but it's thin and comfortable. In addition, the footbed provides decent support, though it's not as plush as The North Face Shellista Mid. Our testers also liked the low profile of this boot. It was a favorite for all-day wear.
Of the hiking boots tested, we thought the Keen Durand Polar and the North Face Chilkat III had the most comfort features. The Keen features a faux-fur collar that is a little larger than the super fleece-lined collar of the North Face Chilkat III. That said, the North Face has a fleece lined interior all the way to the footbed of the boot. The Keen has a fleece-lined interior at the top of the boot, but not through to the footbed.
The Columbia Bugaboot III is also a great hiking option that offers a more supportive footbed then either the Keen or North Face. As a result, it scored a little higher in this metric for that additional support. That said, it has a fleece lining at the top of the boot, while the rest is outfitted with an Omni-Heat liner that isn't nearly as cozy as the other two hikers. All are comfortable winter hiking boots.Fit
All boots tested have a bit of a different fit. That said, we're going to outline a few that might help you in your search for the best winter boot. Most contenders tested fit both narrow and wide feet best, while only a few offer arch support. Many of the bigger and burlier boots have a sloppier fit that isn't as precise as those with a lightweight construct.Winter Hiking Boots
The fit of each winter hiking boot is different. The most notable difference is found in the Keen Durand Polar. Its toe box is less voluminous in the forefoot that limits the fit of this boot to those with either a narrow toe box or a less roomy forefoot. Our testers with more volume to their feet thought sizing up was needed and opted for either the North Face or Columbia Bugaboot III that provided more space in the forefoot. That said, the Durand Polar has more arch support than any other winter hiker tested.
All three had a heel that fit snugly that didn't slip while on trail. The Columbia Bugaboot III provides the most versatile fit with a tight fit through the arch and heel. The North Face delivers a little less space than the Columbia but is sufficient for those with either wide or narrow fit. In general, the fit on all three boots is precise and offers optimal stability for travel over the trails.Winter Boots Around Town
Narrow Fit: While all boots can be worn with a narrow fit, these are our top recommendations if you have a narrow forefoot. These contenders provide a more precise fit and allow you to cinch down the boot.
Our recommendations: Columbia Heavenly Omni-Heat (need to size up a half size), North Face Shellista Mid, UGG Cecile.
Roomy Fit: A boot with a roomy fit is best for those with medium to wide feet. The fit is typically not super precise, but a little floppy.
Our recommendations: Keen Elsa (A favorite for everyday wear), North Face Shellista Mid (Editors' Choice), UGG Cecile(Top Pick for Style), Sorel Tofino II (Super cute!)
Sloppy or Big Fit: These boots have a bulky or sloppy fit that will do well with any kind of foot.
Our recommendations: Sorel Joan of Arctic (Top Pick for Severe Weather), Sorel Caribou (Top Pick for Winter Chores), Kamik Momentum (Best Buy winner).
Ease of Use
It's that moment when you're finally out of the cold, and you're so ready to be in your house slippers. Your boots are wet and snowy, but you just can't seem to kick them off. The feeling is similar when you're trying to get out the door quickly…it's just inconvenient to have shoes that are hard to take on and off. This metric is not weighted very heavily, but there was such a vast difference between how simple it was to take some boots off and how much of a pain others were, that we decided to add in this category.
To evaluate this metric, we looked at a few key factors that contribute to how easy a boot is to take on and off. First, we look at the lacing system and whether or not you need to spend extra minutes lacing and unlacing the boot. Or if the boot could simply be slid into or out of. To test this, we first loosened the laces of each boot. Then we tried to put the boot on without using our hands. Finally, we tried to take the boots off without using our hands. In these tests, we learned that boots with a more rigid shaft and wider neck are easier to get on and off. In addition, we looked to see if boots could be laced up with a simple pull or the laces had to manually be tightened. Boots that did best were easy to take on and off and featured a ''lace-less" system.
The Kamik Momentum, our Best Buy winner is the easiest boot to kick off at the door. It features a quick-pull cord cinch system elastic pull lace system with a wide opening that allows you to slip your boot on and off with ease. The inner liner is slick, so it doesn't catch on socks, nor does it bunch up. Similar to the Kamik, both the Sorel Joan of Arctic and Sorel Tofino II have a more rigid upper that doesn't bend or twist when putting your foot in the boot. However, both have regular lace up systems that take a little more time to put on properly.
The UGG Cecile scores high in this category along with the Keen Elsa because of its stable construct. Both boots can easily be slipped into with minimal lacing effort. Both are tightened with one simple pull and are taken off at the door with a simple pull of the laces. This in addition to the lightweight makeup of both scores it high in this category. Plus both are easy to wear all day long.
Of all the hiking boots tested, the easiest to use is the North Face Chilkat III simply because the collar is the roomiest of all tested. Tthe shaft is a little more stable making it easier to slide the foot in and out of the boot. Plus it only has one eyelet on the shaft (compared to three on the others) taking less time to put on and take off.
While we love the North Face Shellista III Mid for its great coziness and performance, we aren't too impressed with its lacing system. Unlike the Columbia Heavenly Omni-Heat that requires just one simple pull of the lace to tighten throughout the shaft of the boot, the Shellista requires a manual lace-up, earning it a lower score in this metric.
If you want to stay on your feet through winter, a bomber outsole is key. In this metric, we studied each model's outsole by measuring the depth of the tread and the pattern. Also, we took to the mountains for an afternoon and carved out a slippery trail along a hillside to test each boot's traction side-by-side. For each test, we wore a different boot on each foot then walked, hiked, and ran up the hillside. In addition to these objective tests, we skated around on ice patches, hiked around town, and got out into the nasty stuff to determine while boots stuck, and which ones didn't. In the end, we learned that those with the largest lugs and surface area did best on technical terrain while flat soles did the best on deep snow.
While all the boots tested provide some level of traction, some did better than others. If you plan on being out in deep snow throughout the winter, a sole with a lot of surface area like the Sorel Joan or Arctic or Sorel Tofino II is a great option. Similar to a snowshoe, it floats on top of the surface, without the necessity for deep lugs. The outsole has a "wave" pattern that provides some traction, but the lugless design is not ideal for steep snow slopes.
If you plan on getting on steep mountainsides in the winter, a boot with lugs is always helpful. All of our winter hiking boots are great options here with the Keen Durand Polar providing the best traction of all winter boots. The lugs are super large and varied for excellent traction while traveling up and down slopes. You can also strap on a pair of snowshoes to float through these conditions and charge uphill.
Of the other winter boots, the Kamik Momentum features the deepest and most aggressive tread of all tested. That said, the lug rubber isn't that soft, so it slips easily off rocks. As a result, it's not a great hiking boot, but it is a wonderful around-town or work boot for those that need some traction in town. If you're considering cute boots that might have decent traction patterns, The North Face Shellista II Mid and the Keen Elsa are both great options. Both feature a softer rubber and wider lug pattern that grips to slippery rocks and deep hillside snow. All are great options for winter chores and light hiking opportunities.
Footwear plays a key role a person's overall look, and generally, it's not something like a jacket or coat that you take off once you get to your destination. On cold or wet winter days, you may have your boots on all day long, so it's important that it matches your style. We all know that if you don't like the way your boot looks, you probably won't be happy with it, especially if you're wearing them on an everyday basis. As a result, we considered style an important metric to consider.
When testing style, we asked opinions of over twenty women and noted any compliments received at work and on the street. While style is a subjective metric, take it with a grain of salt. Some love faux-fur while others think it's hideous. Keep your interests in mind while considering this aspect of the metric. Here we will outline some critical differences between boots in addition to their versatility with different types of pants, leggings, and other winter wear.
The winter boots in this review ranged significantly in style…from the techy Keen Durand Polar winter hiking boot to those with faux fur collars like the Sorel Joan of Arctic. We also tested boots with a low profile like our Top Pick for Style the UGG Cecile and the Keen Elsa, a favorite for everyday wear. Through this variety, we noted some patterns and trends that we'd like to share.
First question: Do you like faux fur? There are many boots with a faux-fur collar of varying lengths that some of our testers love while others preferred not to wear. While these models are great for keeping out blowing snow and have a specific style, they typically can't be worn underneath pants or tights. They are best for wear with a pair of skinny jeans or tights. Boots like the Sorel Joan or Arctic or the super cute Sorel Tofino II are a perfect example of faux-fur boots. Couple them with a pair of leggings for a warm winter look that some love and others don't. The Columbia Heavenly Omni-Heat is another option that doesn't look as bulky as the Sorels.
If you don't love faux fur, consider the North Face Shellista II Mid, one of our Editors' Choice winners. This boot features a wingtip outsole, a tall knit collar, with a rubber shaft. It's an excellent option for those looking for a competitor that provides a clean, streamlined look.
If style is your number one priority, be sure to check out the UGG Cecile, our Top Pick for Style. This leather-bound duck boot provides a stylish flair unmatched by any boot in this review. Its 7-inch height is perfect to wear with a cute pair or jeans or winter dress either around town or to work. We found it to be quite versatile and a top choice to wear all day long. If leather isn't your thing, the Keen Elsa is a great alternative. It too features a lower height of just 8-inches and received a plethora of props on the street for its colorful upper and straightforward design. This too was a favorite to wear all day long.
Do you want to build a snowman? A high-performing winter boot will keep you warm and protected through the worst weather winter brings. Be sure to make your choice wisely and find the best women's winter boot for you this season!
Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for more info.